Sunday, June 29, 2014

Author Interview: Margo Dill on Curses

Revision: First of all, I have to congratulate you on an amazing book. I started reading Caught Between Two Curses one morning and didn’t realize how deeply sucked into the story I was until the phone rang at noon. I was actually a little peeved at the caller!

Margo: Thanks so much! I have had several people say that they finished reading it in a day or two, including my own mother.
Revision: Since this blog focuses on revision and metaphors, those are some of questions I’m going to pitch at you. I hope I don’t hit you with a curve ball. Do you have your bat ready?

Margo: Always ready, okay, wait, maybe I need to take a few practice swings.

Revision: Your previous book, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg required a lot of research into the American Civil War. What kind of research did you do for Caught Between Two Curses? What part did your research play in making the book believable? Did your research force you to revise what you wanted to write?

Margo: I have to be honest that I didn’t have to do much research for Caught Between Two Curses, except for some information about the Curse of the Billy Goat--the whole reason why the Cubs are not winning the World Series, of course. Other than that, I did a little research on other curses, how people think they have broken curses in the past, and Chicago. Although I have been to Chicago several times, so I was familiar with my setting.

Revision: Curses in literature are usually a metaphor. For example in the movie Brave, the curse put on Merida’s mother is a metaphor for how daughters view their mothers as monsters until they realize their mothers are merely looking out for the best interests of their daughters. In Caught Between Two Curses, beyond simple revenge, how would you interpret your curse metaphors?

Margo: Mostly they are about love--what happens when love goes wrong? The curse that I made up for Julie’s family was put on by a scorned lover--hence the revenge you’re talking about. But more than that, it’s how love can be viewed by some people as something they are entitled to or that they own. And when love is treated this way, it can cause serious damage. In the book, love gone wrong causes death--it sounds like this book is so serious, when really it is quite quirky and fun, except for the death curse, that is.

Revision: In Caught Between Two Curses, some of your central themes focused on the pressures of teen sex, the importance and difficulty of family ties, and what it means to be in love. When you are in the idea phase of choosing what to write, do you pick your themes or do they emerge organically from your text? How does this change in the various stages of revision?

Margo: I think more about plot and characters at first, with a vague idea of my themes. My themes come out more after my first draft, at which point I try to figure out what they actually are. Then when I revise, I really have those themes in mind, so I think it helps focus the revision.

Revision: You have a marvelous way of drawing the reader into the story, making sure nothing pulls them out of the story. What is your process for revising from first draft to last to smooth out those rough edges so the reader can’t put down your book?

Margo: First of all, thank you--that’s nice of you to say. I wish I had a smooth and easy process, but I just really don’t. I basically write the first draft and most of the time, I have my critique group critiquing as I go. So, I’m always going back and fixing things, even before I finish the ending. I revise and revise and my critique group critiques and critiques. They are invaluable. Then I usually try to get it published--but often too soon, and I have to revise again. I can’t even tell you how many times I revised this novel. I took out an entire plot point that was too confusing and getting in the way. I started the book about 5 different times before I decided to start with the Julie and Gus scene. At one point, I had pink post-it notes all over the floor with scenes written on them and important character points, and then I put them all in order on a poster board to see if I had any holes.

Revision: A few weeks ago, Slate columnist Ruth Graham in her article “Against YA” slammed adult readers for indulging in YA fiction, basically saying, “Grow up, the world ain’t pretty, so read literature that reflects the real world.” In one of my previous blogs posts, “Why Do Adults Like Young Adult Speculative Fiction?”  I discussed several reason why I think adults like and SHOULD read YA literature. Why do you think people like her are so against adults enjoying a good read no matter what genre or age group its marketed for?

Margo: I responded to her on WOW!’s blog here, but really, I think two things about that column--one, it enraged readers, but her article got a TON of views, probably one of the most well-read Slate articles ever. So, if you want people to find out who you are, write something controversial. Second, I think she’s a snob--at least when it comes to reading. I think it’s ridiculous to judge people for what they read. WE really want people to read more--whatever they want to read--just read.

Revision: You have a lot to balance in your life: a husband, kids, an editing business, writing, keeping up with your platform, marketing your books, etc. Your life is in a constant state of revision to stay sane and get things done on time. What would be a few pieces of advice for other people trying to do the same?

Margo: Sometimes, I don’t feel like I do a very good job with the balance, but what I try to do is organize my day into segments and get rid of the mommy guilt. So, I try to plan one to two special things with my kids each day--this could be big like the zoo or small like playing outside in the backyard. They don’t care what as long as I am spending time with them (and the dog, too!). I also ask for help. My husband works nights, so some mornings he watches the kids so I can work. My parents do a lot of entertaining too. I also have to be organized. I have to know what I am going to work on when I have the time to work on it.

Revision: Thank you so much for your time, Margo! Good luck with Caught Between Two Curses! It’s a wonderful book and I hope a lot of people read and enjoy it.

Margo: Thank you so much! I appreciate your time and having me on your blog!


Margo L. Dill is the author of Caught Between Two Curses, a YA light paranormal romance novel about the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs, and Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, a historical fiction, middle-grade novel. She currently has two more books under contract--both are picture books--with High Hill Press and Guardian Angel Publishing. Besides being a children's author, she is also a freelance editor with the business, Editor 911: Your Projects Are My Emergency! and she is part of the WOW! Women On Writing e-zine's staff as an editor, blogger, instructor, and social media manager. When she is not writing, editing or teaching online, Margo loves to spend time with her husband, stepson, daughter, and crazy Boxer dog, Chester in St. Louis, Missouri. Find out more at

WOW! Women On Writing:
Book trailer: Caught Between Two Curses


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
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Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

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